The exodus of Soviet Jewry : the role and activities of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews during the decisive year 1985-1991 / by Stuart Altshuler
Includes bibliographical references (p. 399-409)
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This dissertation examines the role of the American Jewish community in achieving the mass exodus of Soviet Jews during the Gorbachev period, 1985–1991. It reviews the dynamics of American Jewry's decisive part during these critical years for Soviet Jewry, when over one million Jewish emigrants left the USSR for Israel and the United States. Mikhail Gorbachev's policies toward the Jews of the Soviet Union constituted an integral part of his government's drive for reform, known as glasnost and perestroika. As perestroika, in particular, required an opening to the West and America for economic assistance and a reduction of political tensions, a liberalized Jewish policy became one of the ways of achieving these Soviet objectives. As a result, the promise of a massive emigration of Soviet Jews increased dramatically. Closely related to these developments with the United States and western countries came a growing, though constrained, Soviet rapprochement with the State of Israel and the promise that thousands of Jewish immigrants would make their way to the Jewish state. Dramatic and heartening as these changes had been to the prospect of increased Jewish freedom of emigration from the USSR, the events compelled the Soviet Jewry movement in America to respond. It had to at once react to the demands of Israel which favored compulsory immigration of Soviet Jews, to Soviet Jews themselves, who generally favored freedom to choose the destination of their desire, to the only political apparatus that could achieve the substantive political goals, the U.S. government, and to internal organizational restraints, biases, and distinct values of American Jewry. This study examines how the two main branches of the Soviet Jewry movement in America—the activist sector, led by the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, and the establishment wing, led by the National Conference for Soviet Jews—struggled and fought over the direction of the movement. Through the eyes, in the main, of the grassroots, activist UCSJ, this dissertation reveals how American Jewry reached its decisions and determined policy, how American Jewry's complicated relationship with Israel influenced the direction of the movement, and, finally, how the unsung role of an out-of-mainstream group, the UCSJ, influenced the course of modern Jewish history.
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